Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Pope Center: UNC Chapel Hill remains "a problem" for suggesting that programs to alleviate poverty might help alleviate poverty (Michael Simkovic)
When North Carolina researchers who study poverty criticized conservative law makers in North Carolina, political leaders reminded academics of the dangers of speaking out against their bosses. Republicans responded by shutting down the law school's poverty center, crippling its civil rights center, and voting for draconian cuts to UNC Chapel Hill law school's budget. North Carolina's Republicans were also among the first to pass the Koch funded, Goldwater Institute backed "Campus Free Speech Act", which is a thinly veiled effort to politicize universities, and monitor and intimidate administrators, students, and faculty under the guise of promoting "free speech."
North Carolina's leading funder of libertarian and Republican causes, James Arthur Pope (usually referred to as 'Art' Pope), is apparently displeased that even after the punishment meted out on the University of North Carolina, the University still hasn't completely capitulated. Mr. Pope's point person on bullying universities into submission, George Leef of the John Pope Franklin Center, recently penned an editorial in the National Review calling UNC "a problem" because of its summer reading list for incoming students.
One of several UNC campuses committed the mortal sin of asking incoming students to read and discuss a pulitzer prize winning non-fiction book which tells the story of American families struggling with the hardships of poverty. The book suggests that government programs to alleviate poverty actually sometimes help alleviate poverty. (In libertarian parlance, this is "advocating statism.") Worse yet, it seems like the kind of book that might be appreciated by Senators Sanders and Warren, two progressive Democrats.
What's notable about Leef's criticism of the book is that he doesn't point to factual errors, inconsistencies, selective citations, logical errors or other problems of quality. For Leef, the book isn't bad because it's sloppy. It's bad because it might create sympathy for policies that extremely rich people who want lower taxes dislike.
An essay in Commentary which Leef praises also attacks scientists at UNC for supporting the international scientific consensus on man-made Global Warming. Universities agreeing with the international scientific consensus allegedly violates principles of "political neutrality."
To some major donors and those whom they fund, "free speech" is too often a euphemism for donor control of public dialogue, and by extension public policy.
 This should not be read as an endorsement of the book. To my mind, there are substantive flaws which could have been pointed out, such as failing to note that high cap rates on low income housing often reflect higher risks for investors and lower expectations of appreciation in value.